One of the reasons why we cannot actually admit to ourselves the truth of what we believe (i.e. our beliefs as reflected in our material actuality) is because we have not experienced grace. If, for instance, I mostly watch family television and comedies then I don’t believe in watching politically informative documentaries that might challenge how I might live. But I can’t admit that to myself because I would find it hard to accept myself, or feel that I could be accepted by others, if I did.
In grace (the experience of actually accepting that you are accepted) we can admit to who we are without excuses, or even trying to change. For in grace we accept that we are accepted as we are and don’t have to change anything. The power of grace really comes to light when we realise that it is only as we are able to find this acceptance and admit to our darkness that the darkness begins to dissipate and our basic operating code begins to change.
This is what we see operating in AA where a person is able to stop deceiving or condemning themselves and simply admit that they are an alcoholic. They are able to do this because they are in a room full of people overflowing with grace. People who accept them for what they are, not what they might one day be. Here in this space of grace where we do not need to change, true change begins to sprout from the dry earth of our being.
(From “I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture” by Peter Rollins)
In this perceptive post about beliefs and whether they translate into material reality, Peter Rollins has explained very well the difference between intellectual affirmations that remain at the level of the mind and beliefs that operate at a material level of doing. Believing and confessing is one thing, and doing is another thing because at the end of the day, it is our actions that demonstrate what we really believe in our hearts. Hence, most of the time, statements of beliefs or statements of faith in church websites and creeds are nothing more than intellectual affirmations that do not really mean anything if these are not practised in real life as a demonstration of the love the followers profess to believe in. As Pete put it: “This is why I reject the religious/spiritual debate. For me Christianity is “none of the above”. It is nothing less than a material faith i.e. a mode of being that transforms ones material actuality.”
Beliefs have their place, as he noted that “Beliefs are operating all the time, enabling us to function on a day-to-day basis.” It is how we harness our beliefs to make a better world for ourselves and others. In many Christian circles however, it is unfortunate that people are expected to confess openly what they believe in order to see which denomination they belong to or to see how they can categorise those whose beliefs differ from theirs. It can become sectarian and divisive. I think Pete is very much aware that many people who kept asking him what he believe may be trying to see how they may label or categorise him based on what he believes.
In a way, his post is a reminder that what really matters in life is not simply about a statement of belief one confesses publicly but rather how one integrates the belief into one’s life such that it is evident to others what the person believes through one’s actions. So, if a person believes God is love and God loves everyone, it would show in the way the person is being inclusive towards others. I also agree with his conclusion that a revelation or experience of grace will enable us to accept ourselves for who we are, not who we might one day be.
- Peter Rollins on the Good News and IKON – his Evangelism Project (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Peter Rollins – We are a fiction (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Podcast: Peter Rollins, The Idolatry of God (realrest.wordpress.com)
- Some reflections on ideologies (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Christians Should Give Up “Christianity”: An Interview with Peter Rollins (religiondispatches.org)
- Transformance Art and “Beyond the colour of each other’s eyes” by Peter Rollins (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: The Fidelity of Betrayal (Peter Rollins) (justinhiebert.com)
- Overgrown: Life after Deconstruction (onetheology.com)
- The Not Self-Assured Believer (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- The Glorious Unknowing: Chapter 1 (saunsea.wordpress.com)